Scottish Government urges Aberdeen University to 'carefully consider' plans to axe languages degrees

SNP ministers told to produce plan to reverse declining interest in subjects

The Scottish Government has urged Aberdeen University to “carefully consider” plans to axe modern languages degrees and staff.

The intervention comes as a new petition calling for a U-turn from management at the ancient institution attracted close to 3,000 backers within a few hours of being launched on Monday.

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The university is under fire after saying the existing provision of modern languages is “unsustainable”, following a “steep fall” in student numbers.

Aberdeen University King's College buildingAberdeen University King's College building
Aberdeen University King's College building

A steering group has been established to consider three options, all of which involve the end of single honours French, Gaelic, German and Spanish.

The Scotsman reported on Saturday that Alasdair Allan, who has a PhD in Scots language from the university and served as SNP minister for Scotland’s languages from 2011 to 2016, had written to senior management raising concerns about the “thoroughly depressing” move.

Alex Cole-Hamilton, the Scottish Liberal Democrat leader, also attended the university.

He said: “As a former student and student president at Aberdeen, I find these reports very concerning.

“In recent times we’ve seen a huge drop in the number of secondary pupils taking modern languages, squeezed by curriculum reforms.

"That’s now feeding through to universities so I would urge ministers to set out how they plan to repair this and the punishing cuts that they have handed down to Scotland’s world class universities.”

In response, a Government spokesperson said: “The Scottish Government recognises the importance of learning an additional language, as it equips our young people with the skills they need in an increasingly globalised world.

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“While this is ultimately a matter for the university as an autonomous institution, we would encourage the university to carefully consider its proposals to reduce its existing provision in modern languages.

“Despite the Scottish Government facing the most challenging financial environment since devolution, we have continued to support our colleges and universities through almost £2 billion in annual investment.”

Aberdeen University has been approached for comment.

Professor Karl Leydecker, senior vice-principal at Aberdeen University, said last week: “It is deeply regrettable that the provision of modern languages at the university is unsustainable in its current form, with low and falling numbers of students.”



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